How Coronavirus is Affecting Service Members and Veterans

May 20, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

As a nation, we are currently facing one of the greatest threats in the history of our existence. As the American Postal Worker goes to press, the United States has reported more than 1.22 million confirmed cases of the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19), with approximately 71,000 deaths. The numbers from this pandemic remain staggering to say the least. Unfortunately, there will be many more in the coming days and months.

Despite the danger of the coronavirus, our nation’s veterans of the Armed Forces have once again answered the call of duty and stepped up to aid in the fight against this invisible enemy. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, active duty was authorized to augment forces.

There are now more than 29,400 Air and Army National Guard professionals that are supporting the COVID-19 crisis at the direction of their governors. That number is certain to grow in the future. The troops mostly consist of Headquarters units and personnel with high-demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.

Our entire military community – both active-duty and retired – has been significantly impacted by this fastspreading virus. Over 2,000 active duty troops have been diagnosed with COVID-19 according to the latest Department of Defense data, bringing the military’s infection rate to approximately 903-per-million. The U.S. Navy reported that 741 service members have contracted the virus, 550 of which were aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. At the time that the report was released, the Army has 411 positive cases, the Air Force has 367 cases and the Marine Corps has 173 cases, in addition to 409 airmen and soldiers with the National Guard.

There will most certainly be an impact on our veterans as well, as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued new operating guidelines that include the suspension of all VA Clinic in-person face-to-face visits. This comes shortly after the federal agency reported that it would begin testing for the coronavirus at its hospitals around the country, and that it is preparing 1,500 hospital beds for non-veterans infected with the virus.

In addition to operating 172 medical centers and being responsible for treating more than nine thousand veterans, distributing their benefits and running veterans’ cemeteries, the VA has a fourth mission: to provide emergency medical care to all Americans in times of crisis.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that since the first death of a VA patient from coronavirus in mid-March, the number of positive cases and fatalities in the department’s health system has risen dramatically. Across all Veterans Administration sites, more than 3,700 patients under VA care have tested positive for the coronavirus, which is about 11 percent of all of the cases tested by the department, and more than 1,100 Veterans Affairs health care staffers have been forced into quarantine.

On a positive note, officials from the charity Wounded Warrior Project announced that they would make available $10 million in reserve funds to injured veterans whose finances have been hurt by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The money is to be made available to individuals registered with the group in the form of $1,000 grants for groceries, rent payments, and other essential expenses.

The APWU appreciates the efforts and contributions of our veterans for their essential front-line efforts in helping to battle the terrible coronavirus pandemic.

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